Archive of ‘Elizabeth’ category

Dear Congo Mama

Dear Congo Mama,

I can’t get you off my mind these days.  Perhaps it’s just that Mother’s Day is peeking around the corner, taunting all of the joyful and hurting alike with the displays of greeting cards and overpriced flowers.  Or maybe it’s that remarkable, mind-blowing thing that happens in childhood.  Namely, that crazy thing called GROWING UP.  And, Congo Mama, that sweet girl of yours- that sweet girl of ours– she’s growing up so beautifully.  So smart.  So strong.  So. Brave.  It’s like I’m watching this miracle unfold before my eyes in technicolor.

Actually, it’s exactly like that.

As I write this letter, I stare at my favorite photograph of you.  You’re wearing yellow- the exact shade of yellowish-gold that always looks so stunning on Elizabeth (and, incidentally, the exact shade of yellow that I can never, ever pull off)- and you’re holding a baby.  Your firstborn.  And you look tired.  I can recognize The Look a mile away.  Probably because I am well-acquainted with that exact expression- wholly-content + mind-numbingly-tired.  Apparently life with a newborn is the same across every culture and every land.  EXHAUSTING.  I just feel this nagging urge to step through the photo, offer up a fist bump, and tell you that you’re doing a SOLID JOB at this mom thing.

Elizabeth would come years later, and you wouldn’t have the privilege of holding her, rocking her, singing sweet Swahili lullabies over her as she drifted off each night.  She would never be strapped to your back as you made your daily trek through the village for water.  She would never know your voice. She’d never hear your stories.  She’d never stand next to the fire- next to you- as you stirred and stirred and stirred the evening’s fufu.  She would never know what it’s like to grow up in a Congolese home.   In a Congolese family.

No.  Because you happened to be born where you were born and lived where you lived, your access to healthcare was woefully limited.  And your days were cut short.  This truth haunts me and motivates me nearly every day of my life.

But you know what Elizabeth does know, Congo Mama?  She knows love.  She knows the love of not one family but two.  She knows that you loved her.  That you loved your husband and you loved your children and you loved your community so well.  We talk about it.  We talk about you, Congo Mama.  Oh my word, do we talk about you.

Hey Congo Mama, as I stare at your picture and at your face that so resembles our sweet Elizabeth, I want you to know something.  I want you to know that I’m doing the very best I can.  I want you to know that I do not take this great privilege lightly.  I want you to know that I’m far from perfect.  That there are days I lose my cool and roll my eyes and rushrushrush through bedtime prayers and kisses, without giving a second thought to the notion that we’re not promised another breath.  Another kiss goodnight.  But I love this girl of ours with every ounce of love I know to give.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for giving her life.  I will always reject the notion that Elizabeth “grew in our hearts” because, sweet Congo Mama, she was yours first.

She’ll always be yours.

Ours.

Till we meet in person, Congo Mama.  With our redeemed bodies and our precious daughter and voices lifted up to the one true Giver of Life.

Happy Mother’s Day, Congo Mama.  We honor you, and we love you so much.

Catherine

SIX.

Elizabeth,

You, big girl, are SIX today.  And, gracious, has it been an epic year for you.

Let’s recap.  In the past year, you have started (and slayed) kindergarten.  Donned ballet slippers and tap shoes for the first time.  Discovered your love for horses at Hope Reins.  And, just one week ago, you were baptized.

It’s an unspeakable joy to watch you grow up, sweet girl.

You, Elizabeth, have the sweetest, kindest heart, and you have this uncanny ability to remember the names of every. single. person. you ever meet.  It’s unbelievable, really.  You are deeply empathetic, care about those around you, and make friends easily.

You love Barbies, Shopkins, and all-things-fancy.  Your favorite place to be is in the kitchen helping me… preferably, spatula of brownie batter in hand.  You study cookbooks like it’s your JOB.  And you dance and twirl and cartwheel through life.  All day.  Every day.  If it were not so dang cute, it might be problematic.  Because Target shoppers don’t always know how to respond to cartwheeling legs and arms spinning through the aisles.

You hate to be hot or hungry.  Can’t say I blame you.

Your best friend is Mary Grace.  No contest.  The two of you couldn’t be more different in personalities, and yet, the relationship the two of you have is so precious it makes me want to weep some days.  And then, other days?  Other days, I feel like weeping from the incessant “MOMMMM.  Mary Grace is touching me!!  Elizabeth is looking at me!!  I WANT MY OWN ROOM!”

Just being real here.

Your favorite color is pink.  Your favorite show is Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse (omg…).  Your favorite food is beef.  All of it.  And, when you grow up, you have your heart set on being a missionary or a vet.  (A missionary vet perhaps?)

Good gracious, Elizabeth, you are so loved.  You are so loved.  You. are. so. loved.  We are insanely proud of you, darling girl, and we hope this is the best year yet.

Happy sixth birthday!

Lord, be with this child.

 

Last weekend, our sweet Elizabeth Francine was baptized.  For the second time.  We weren’t there for the first.

I am told that Elizabeth was first baptized as an infant in the local church near her orphanage.  The denomination of churches to which we belong doesn’t do infant baptisms, and yet, I have always been jealous that I missed out on this.  I picture her sweet little frame held close as the life of baby “Francine” was dedicated to God.  I imagine fervent prayers being offered up to God by the body of believers in that remote eastern Congolese village.  “Lord, be with this child.”

Meanwhile, back in the States, an equally fervent body of believers was praying.  Praying as our adoption process stalled and halted and picked back up again.  Prayed as we learned of a little girl who needed a family.  Prayed, “Lord, be with this child.”

And He was.  And He is.  Several months ago, Elizabeth began talking seriously about following Jesus.  We prayed and talked and prayed some more.  “Baby girl,” we said.  “The decision to follow Jesus is not always easy.  It’s going to be an adventure- the greatest and sometimes hardest adventure you’ll ever go on.  But our God goes with us.”

Lord, be with this child.

So, Saturday night, Matt looked into Elizabeth’s eyes as they stood in front of our church.  “Elizabeth, do you believe Jesus has done everything necessary to save you?  And do you promise to do whatever He tells you to do, and go wherever He tells you to go?”

And as she went down into the water, the tears came.  Because the Lord has indeed been with this child of ours.  This child of theirs.  This child of HIS.

I wasn’t there for Elizabeth’s first baptism, but you better believe I was front row and center this go ’round.  And I’m not sure I’ve seen a more technicolor picture of our God’s faithfulness. Ever.

So, to that little church in eastern Congo, I say, “Thank you.  The Lord has heard your cries.”

And to her unbelievably strong and deeply resilient Congo family who, since Elizabeth’s birth, has begged the Lord for her salvation, I say, “Thank you, the Lord has heard your cries.”

And to our village here in the States who has come alongside our girl and our family to speak truth and love over her life, I say, “Thank you, the Lord has heard your cries.”

And to our faithful God to whom salvation belongs, I say, “Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you so much.”

Back to School (or, Alllll By Myselllllllfff) (or, I Think I’m Alone Now) (or, IT IS SO QUIET WITHOUT KIDS)

Well, friends.  This week marks the beginning of a whole new era in the life of the Allisons. Six and a half hours a day, five days a week, my kids are out of this little nest from which I type.  They’re all in school, leaving their mother to wallow in this now-oh-so-very-quiet nest.

Ha.

Y’all, I love my kids something crazy.  But I also really, really enjoy quiet sometimes.  And school.  And teachers.  And quiet.

So, the stats.

We have a third(!) grader(!) who was VERY ready to get back into the swing of schedules and predictability and learning.  Last week, he told me that this past summer was the best yet.  When asked to elaborate, he said, “Well, vacation was good but not TOO long.  And we went to the library a lot.  And I really, really loved that calendar you made me.”  The kid may look like his father…

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IMG_1026We have a first grader who was not quiiite as stoked to return to the classroom but who, fortunately, can easily be lured into the school building with the promise of rectangular pizzas and corn dog nuggets from the school cafeteria.

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IMG_1035And we have a kindergartener!  Elizabeth went to one full day of school last week for her staggered entry day.  And today, she’ll be with her full class for her first day of for-real kindergarten.  She’s equal parts excited and nervous and is armed with her much-loved locket.  And her equally-adored (and adoring) big sister who (hopefully) walked her into her classroom this morning.

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IMG_1081It’s a big year.  A school-year that has been long-anticipated and prayed over.  Things always seem to be shifting and changing around here.  This year is certainly no exception, and I’m pretty pumped to see what God has in store for us.

But for today?  Today, I’m pretty sure that His plans (or, ahem, my plans) involve sitting and resting and drinking an extra celebratory cup of coffee.  In silence.  Blessed, glorious silence.  That is, until the clock strikes 3:45.  Then, all bets are off.

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on loving them big and sending them out

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Elizabeth had spent weeks studying the hotel’s website.  Daily, she’d pore over stock pictures of the mediocre-to-most hotel breakfast.  “So you’re saying I get to eat ALL THE BACON I WANT?” she’d confirm again and again, completely mesmerized by the notion. She rehearsed the details and the plans.  Shopping.  Food.  Pool.  Friends.  Food.  Nails.  Food.

Over the past few years, The Kindergarten Trip has become quite the beloved tradition in our home.  This all came about when Matt took a cue from our church’s phenomenal counseling pastor, Brad Hambrick, who had started a similar tradition with his sons.  His purpose?  “Defining special occasions and major lessons with a memorable trip.”

We loved this idea of celebrating specific rites of passage with concentrated one-on-one time with our kids.  Sure, we were in it for the fun.  In Elizabeth’s case, we would shop!  Swim!  Eat all of the Hampton Inn bacon her little gut could handle!  (Oh my gosh.)  But we also desperately want to grab ahold of these golden opportunities to speak truth into our kids’ lives at pivotal moments.  To press pause on the crazy at home and to carve out the space and time to invest in relationship.  To insert ourselves, as parents, into some of the biggest transitions in their lives and to create positive memories surrounding these moments.

I know this might sound really Pollyannaish to some, but it really comes down to this- we just want our kids to know to the core of their being that they are loved in a no-matter-what kind of way.  Because they WILL screw up.  They’re going to run into tough situations in school.  There will be hard questions and big conversations and bad days.  And we want them to know that our house- imperfect though it may be- is a place of grace and mercy and truth.  We want our kids to know that they can run to us with all of their everything.  And when they do, we’re going to point them right back to the One who loves perfectly.  Because, while I am known to roll my eyes and grit my teeth in frustration, His patience never runs dry.  His grace is perfect. And his strength is limitless.

I want to teach them to run to us so that, ultimately, they learn to sprint to Him.

I want to surprise them with grace and to love ’em big and, then, to look in their eyes and say, “You know what?  There’s a love that’s even greater!”

That’s the goal.  And if a one night trip a few hours down the road to Charlotte gets me one step closer to accomplishing this, then we’re on the right track.  Because this parenting thing is a marathon.  And sometimes we’re just lucky enough to get “really spot on” (Elizabeth’s words, not mine) hotel bacon along the way.

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Adoption is hard. And you don’t got this.

Last night, I had the opportunity to speak for a few minutes at an orphan care meeting at church.  Over 100 people had gathered together to talk about foster care, adoption, and orphan prevention.  There were veteran adoptive parents who still shudder at the mention of the five little letters USCIS.  There were foster parents who could rattle off the names of dozens of placements who have been in and out of their homes.  There were wide-eyed couples completely overwhelmed at the whole shebang.

I have a crystal clear memory of sitting in a similar meeting at church years ago.  We were in the very early stages of adopting, were convinced we knew exactly what we were doing, and were still rocking our rose-colored glasses.  Because all we needed was love, baby!

My, how things change.

Instead.  Last night, as we were just about to pull up to church, I said to Matt, “Man, I don’t know about this.  This topic, it just feels really heavy and raw to me.”

Here’s the thing- adoption is beautiful and redemptive and is, hands down, one of the best decisions Matt and I have ever made.  But it can also be crazy hard.  And that was precisely the premise of my talk: Adoption is hard.  Adoption is messy.  And you need help.

In the short time I had last night, I threw out terms like poverty orphan.  Family reunification.  Orphan prevention.  I discussed how we, as adoptive and foster parents, need a village and how that village better include a really stellar therapist.

Rainbows and unicorns, be gone.  Catherine is in the house.

In all seriousness, I get that this message is weighty.  Tossing ideas like this out to a room full of potential adoptive and foster parents may seem a bit unconventional.  However, it’s so. very. necessary.  Because, at the end of the day, orphan care is not about us.  It’s not about us “getting a kid” or how we can be little orphan-saviors.

When we’re busy making these big decisions about agencies and countries and fundraising, you know what’s going on behind the scenes?

Loss and trauma.

Adoption is inherently rooted in this reality, and MAN have I seen it at play.

Last night, I shared that I had been chatting with Elizabeth and had asked her what she’d want people to know about adoption.  Her response?

“It’s kinda hard sometimes.  I don’t get to see my Congo family, and that’s hard.  And I know my Congo family misses me, and that’s hard too.  But it’s also kind of awesome.  Because now I get two families that love me.”

You guys, she’s five.  And yet she’s already acutely aware the intersection of loss and redemption.  She gets that it’s messy.

But as I hear Elizabeth’s little voice pray for her Congo family, and as we email pictures and videos and cute-kid-anecdotes halfway across the world to her biggest Swahili-speaking fans, we see redemption and beauty creeping in.

As I try desperately hard to shed light on the dignity and respect these first families deserve.

As we all continue to learn dependence- dependence on the village God has given us and dependence on the Giver Himself.

As I’m able to share some of our story and our mistakes, wins, and experiences with others- as I’m able to point to God’s faithfulness and goodness in it all.

Tragedy meets redemption.  Loss meets beauty.  And we find ourselves in the middle of a big, tangled, beautiful mess.

Is adoption hard?  Heck to the yes.  Is there beauty in the mess?  Absolutely.

So, potential adoptive parent, don’t let the stars in your eyes cloud your judgement and your ability to make sound, ethical decisions.  For the love, don’t assume that “all you need is love” to make a hurting child whole again.  Only God can fill that role.  And good counseling can sure help a ton.

Similarly, don’t be paralyzed by the prospect of hard.  Because the reality is that there are kids who desperately need families.  And we, as the church, have been explicitly commanded to take care of orphans.

And widows.

And teenage moms who have made the brave decision to parent.  Who are struggling to make ends meet.

And first families who have made the equally-brave decision to place their child for adoption.  And who just want to know that their little girl is okay.

Y’all, as I’ve said many times before, we can do hard things.  We just can’t do them alone.

So, open your eyes.  Wide.  Wider still.  Ask hard questions.  Find your village.  And practice these words:

“We don’t got this.  We. Need. Help.”

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Family Update (Because apparently there are kids out there with baby books and scrapbooks and this is the best I’ve got.)

 

The other day, I found myself in the ultimate Circle ‘O Guilt.  I had rolled up to my kids’ school, ready to spend the morning helping out at field day.  Innocent.  Blameless.  A+ Mom Status.  Or so I thought.

UNTIL.  I found myself in The Mom Huddle, and the conversation turned dark.  Condemning.

Baby books and scrapbooks.

Y’all.  Did you know this is even a thing any more?   I CERTAINLY DID NOT.  But it is.  According my sources, children not only have completed baby books these days, but they still have scrapbooks!  With real printed-out PHOTOS that you can touch.  Hold.  And are not floating out there in some invisible “cloud.”

If that’s you, I offer you a digital pat on the back.  I applaud your dedication.  When your children are old and grey, they will have real, actual tokens of their childhood to have and to hold.  Meanwhile, my kids will be left scrounging through old hard drives.  “That old Instagram thing mom used to have.”  And this blog.

And, with that, I think we’re due for an Allison Family Update.  You’re welcome, children.

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ELIZABETH:

Talks like Barbie.  Because she’s the third kid and has been allowed access to things I have previously shunned (read: Barbie Life in the Dreamhouse.  OMG.), her language is now WAY TOO REMINISCENT of a Barbie clone.

Me: “Hey Elizabeth, go brush your teeth.”

Elizabeth: “Yeah, girl.  I’m on it.”

Me: “Elizabeth, wanna go out to lunch?”

Elizabeth: “Right on, girl.  I love to chill with you.”

Me: *kisses Matt as he leaves for work*

Elizabeth: “Oh, girl.  That’s so romantic.”

THIS IS A VERY REAL PROBLEM, PEOPLE.  Elizabeth, I know Barbie is SO RAD and everything, but I’m thinking Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse may have to “disappear” from Netflix for a while.  Sorry, girl.

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Elizabeth also continues to be a lover of all things sequined, glittery, and bedazzled.  As such, Sequined Cat Purse remains front and center in her daily life.

It must be known, however, that her adoration of All Things Fancy does not stop her from getting filthy outside with her siblings.  Because, it’s all about balance.  Girl.

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I found him like this the other night, hours past his bedtime.  Squatting on his bathroom counter, book in hand.  Needless to say, he’s still a lover of reading.  Most recently, he’s been obsessing over the old-school Garfield comic books which he thinks are the FUNNIEST EVER.

He’s had a fantastic year in second grade and has enthusiastically declared it his best year yet.  (Why?  Because he was allowed to hit up the library every. single. day.  Bless.)

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  When Carson’s not reading (or playing Scrabble. because he’s awesome.), he can be found climbing.  Everything.

A few weeks ago, we were at a cookout when we realized Carson had been missing for a while.  Within minutes, Matt found him a good THIRTY FEET up in a tree.  Like it was no thing.  With the other kids assembled below, mouths agape.  (As I typed this, it hit me that surely it couldn’t have been thirty feet.  Like, 3-0.  And so I texted Matt to confirm.  His response?  “At least.”  My response?  “Dear Jesus, help me.”)

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MARY GRACE:

This kid has slayed kindergarten and has brought laughter to many in the process.  There’s been a steady banter going on this year between Mary Grace and her hilariously awesome teacher’s assistant who has dubbed my darling child, “Mary Mary Quite Contrary”.  Ahem.

Mary Grace has a quick wit, abounding(!) energy(!), and an uncanny ability to lead others.

She’s a lover of art (her self-portrait makes me smile)…

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…and a lover of animals.  Bats.  Foxes.  Earthworms.  Lizards.  Nasty, screechy rodents.  Girl adores all of ’em.  Every single creature is the best. ever.  Except for her own PET DOG for whom she has zero regard.  And perhaps a small bit of disdain.  I don’t even know.

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MATT:

When not working and pastoring, Matt plans to spend his summer throwing small children.  Into lakes.  Pools.  Rivers.  All the while, his doting wife will cheer from afar and will take photos for her kids’ non-existent scrapbooks and will say encouraging words about his strength and kid-tossing stamina.  Because there are books to read.  And I ain’t getting in that lake water.

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IMG_9230ME:

……

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Just hanging on for dear life.  Doing what it takes.  And not scrapbooking.

a few words to my preschool grad and all other children of the world

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Once upon a time, Matt and I thought we knew exactly how to parent.  We knew the best discipline methods.  The best kind of education for our children.  The best way to get our kids to sleep and learn and behave and be.  We were experts.

This was all pre-kids, of course.

We were so very cute back then.

But then, we wised up.  Realized we had no flippin’ idea what we were doing after all.

It seems as though all parents go through this at some point- that lightbulb moment in which it all becomes crystal clear.  When you realize that, oh hey, parenting is actually mad hard.  That kids change everything.  That all of your parenting theories and noble ideas and book knowledge make ZERO SENSE once that new baby or nutso toddler or sassy big kid is actually in YOUR house.  Under YOUR roof.  Their wellbeing in YOUR hands.

We hit that moment shortly after baby #1 came around.  Then, if I wasn’t shell-shocked already, #2 burst into the world with all of her passion and fury.  Finally, in the midst of that, we brought home a little girl who had been through a lot.  A lot a lot.  Which just sealed the deal.  We needed help.

So, last fall, Matt and I took ourselves to a counselor.  To hold our hands and walk us through how to best parent our sweet Elizabeth.  And she did just that.  Held our hands.  Walked us through it all.  Offered us all kinds of wonderful insight and advice.  But perhaps the biggest game-changer was her insistence that we get Elizabeth back. in. preschool.

“But it’s not in our plans!” we said.

“Get her back in preschool.”

“It’s not in our budget!”

“Get her back in preschool.”

“This website and that blog and allofthosebooks said to keep her home!”

“Get her back in preschool.”

So we did.  And she was SO RIGHT.  It has been a truly fantastic year.  Our girl has grown by leaps and bounds.  Kindergarten is right around the corner, and we’re all feeling ready.  Excited.  We’re all in a completely different spot than we were in the fall, and I’m abundantly, overwhelmingly grateful.

And so, as Elizabeth bids adieu to her preschool career today, I have a few pieces of advice for my tiniest graduate.  And for her brother and sister.  And all of the other children of the world.

  1. Counselors are awesome.  There will come a day in which you will say to yourself, “Huh.  I think I should really go see a counselor.”  LISTEN TO THAT VOICE.  Go.
  2. Counselors are smart.  They go to school for this.  They study.  They read lots of books.  Like, scholarly books.  Not just Parenting Magazine and Facebook Mom Groups.  Ahem.  Listen to them.  Do what they say.
  3. Counselors are not scary people.  It’s unfortunate that I even have to say this.  But the truth is, people have all kinds of weird vibes about counseling.  Lemme just put it to you gently: that stigma is whack.  I’m convinced that everyone needs a good counselor every now and then.  Even if you think you’re the epitome of “normal”, “healthy”, or “just fine.”  Whatever.  You need counseling too.

That’s it.  Sure, I’d love you to work hard and shoot for the stars and all of that jazz.  But I’d also like you to get yourself in a counselor’s chair some day.

So, dear Elizabeth.  Congrats on this day.  This day that almost wasn’t because PRESCHOOL WAS NOT IN OUR PLANS.  You made it!  You learned so much.  You made gobs of friends.  And you’re pumped and ready for kindergarten.

Phew and praise Jesus.

In your honor, not only will we go celebrate tonight with your dinner of choice (corndogs), but we will also start a fund for all three of you darling children.  The “We-Will-Probably-Mess-You-Up-As-Parents-In-Some-Way-or-Another Allison Children Counseling Fund”.  You’re very welcome, sweet girl.

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Elizabeth’s five!

Elizabeth,

Just like that, you kids grow up.  They’ve always warned me, but now I’m seeing it with my own eyeballs.  You, my girl- my baby– are growing up.  Five. Years. Old.

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Elizabethy, you are such a joy.  I love to just stand back and watch you with your friends.  You’re kind.  Empathetic.  A tiny bit dramatic.  (Who KNEW there could be so much drama on the preschool playground?)  You have an uncanny ability for remembering the name of every person you meet.  Because you care about them.  You’re well-loved, and you love well.

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You are a fan of all things sparkly, twirly, shiny, and fancy.  Dubbing yourself a “fashion designer”, you change clothes approximately seventyhundred times a day.  You are rarely seen without your sequined cat purse.  And you have recently fallen head over heels with Barbie.  Your ONLY request for your birthday was “a Ken with no shirt on”.  I don’t know even know.IMG_5834

‘Lil Bit, you also LOVE animals.  Particularly dogs.  Particularly our drooly, goofy, overweight bulldog, Lucy, who sleeps in bed with you, perks up when you walk into a room, and obeys you (and no one else).  When you came home from Congo, you were absolutely petrified of any and all animal.  Gnats.  Cats.  Dogs.  And yet, you now want to be a vet when you grow up.  Love it.IMG_5023

You have always been a big fan of eating.  Still are.  Unless I put a veggie in front of you, that is.  And you love to help me cook.  Sometimes, when you’re standing at the kitchen counter with me, stirring pizza dough or licking boxed-brownie-batter spatulas, I start thinking about the what-might’ve-beens.  I picture you with your beautiful Congo mama- how you might have stood right next to her as she boiled and mashed and stirred.  I imagine the cooking.  The singing.  The stunning backdrop of Congo’s landscape.  The love.IMG_7423

I can get caught up in the should’ve beens and could’ve beens.  But, even then, I always come back to the same truth: you, my girl, are so loved.  Loved by people all over this great world.  Precious to many.  And we could not be more privileged to call you “daughter”.

Happy fifth birthday, darling girl.  Enjoy your shirtless Ken doll.  (AS IF we could tell you no…)IMG_7739

 

 

grace, love, and first days of preschool

I’ve been quiet on this blog lately.  New school years inevitably bring about a speedier pace.  School forms and activities and meetings universally abound this time of year, and we’re still working on hitting our stride.  It’s good.  Really good.  And really exhausting.

Adding even more fun to the mix, this sweet thing just started back in preschool this morning.  Let’s just ignore the fact that her preschool actually started several weeks ago.  We made an eleventh hour decision, there was (miraculously) one open spot at very preschool we wanted, and so here we are.

Suffice it to say, God is teaching me flexibility.  That, while I may like to think that I know what’s up, He, oh you know, SPOKE the planets into orbit.  So I should probably listen and flex when He says to flex.

And so, here she is.  After several early morning wardrobe changes, Elizabeth finally settled on “cowgirl boots and a dress that twirls”.  DONE.

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Alright, here’s the thing.  Sometimes, moments that seem relatively ordinary to most- moments like starting another year in preschool- can be Really Big Deals to others.  For Elizabeth, this whole preschool gig is a Really, Really Big Deal.  Leaving mom for hours each day takes a heck of a lot of bravery and trust on her part.  Because, when you spend the first few formative years of your life in an orphanage, things are obviously going to be different.  Experiences are experienced differently.  Big feelings and big reactions seemingly come out of nowhere.  All understandable.  All “normal” in terms of behaviors you’d expect from a child with Elizabeth’s background.  And yet, parenting through that is sometimes just SO DANG HARD.

There are so many days (so. many. days. y’all.) that I feel completely inept at being a mother.  Especially a mother to a kid who’s been through significant trauma.  “I don’t even know how to do this anymore.  I have no freaking clue what I’m doing,” I’ll tell Matt (almost daily).  Sure, I’ve read all the books.  We’ve sought professional help (after our first counseling appointment, I glanced at Matt and remarked, “that was the best date we have had in a really long time!”  I don’t even know what that says about us.)  And I’ve prayed.  I’ve prayed a lot.  For wisdom.  For some way to reach into our sweet girl’s heart and let her know to the very marrow of her bones that she is unconditionally loved and accepted and safe.

Sometimes, answered prayers come in small ways.  This morning, we were getting ready for her first day, and in the flurry of the morning rush, I felt my anxiety rise.  I had no clue how today would go.  IF it would go.  I continued with the dressing and brushing and breakfast-making, all the while offering up desperate prayers to the One who hears.  The One who cares.

And then.  Somehow, in the midst of the chaos, I came across my gold locket from my childhood.  And in a momentary stroke of genius (or, more appropriately, divine inspiration), I printed up some impossibly tiny pictures of my face and Matt’s, draped it around her neck, and saw her entire demeanor change before my eyes.

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Sometimes we just need those small reminders.  Just as I sent Elizabeth off this morning with a tangible reminder of the love of her mommy and daddy, we, too, so often need reminders that our Father who art in Heaven also lives in the small and mundane here on earth.  That He is here, right here, with us.  That he will never, ever leave us, that He is on our side, and that His love knows no bounds.

We’re prone to forget.  And still, He’s quick to cover us in His grace and mercy, all the while reminding us who He is.  Oh, may that inform my every move and every decision I make as a mother.

 

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